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Abdominal X-rays may do more harm than good

Aug 2, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

Doctors in New York and around the country are increasingly discouraging the practice of taking X-rays when children have abdominal pain. Overall, the practice of medicine changes with the evolution of science and the collection of evidence that points to a particular treatment method. However, while it is highly uncommon for doctors in adult emergency medicine to give an X-ray to patients who arrive complaining of abdominal pain, they are commonly given to pediatric patients.

The X-rays used for abdominal scans use as much ionizing radiation of 35 chest X-rays, a substantial amount of exposure for relatively little benefit. One study showed that 63 percent of children diagnosed with constipation at the emergency room had received an X-ray before their diagnosis. Advocates of the use of the test say that it could identify when causes of pain more serious than constipation are present. However, these types of X-rays show very low sensitivity and specificity and may actually lead doctors to confirm an incorrect diagnosis.

The concern about the harms of these X-rays is not limited to the amount of radiation exposure a child receives. Around 50 percent of all of these X-rays are read as normal, but a higher percentage of children who receive abdominal radiographs are misdiagnosed in comparison to people who do not receive them. A misdiagnosis can be a significant problem, especially when a serious disorder is missed and treatment delayed.

While medical testing may be intended to pinpoint a precise diagnosis, it is critical for physicians to use the most up-to-date standard of care to protect patients from inaccurate diagnoses and inappropriate treatment. People who have suffered a worsened medical condition as a result of a doctor’s misdiagnosis might want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to see what recourse they might have.